They say that the greatest joy in life is having children. The flip-side of that is, of course, that the biggest sorrow is not having them. And I suppose this is a large part of what I find myself dealing with right now. I am not saying that the meaning of life is to have children, but it has always felt like that is the meaning of my life; it has always been what I have wanted more than anything for myself. Yes, I would love the husband, the lovely house, the great job, the riches to be able to choose leading a humble life-style, but all of those things have always been secondary to the deep desire to have children. Nothing compares to that.
So, finding myself here, at thirty-five, having none of the above things, it’s a pretty painful place to be, and none causes me more pain than the lack of children..
I trained in childcare, it was a natural choice, I have a lot of experience in caring for children from well before I ever made that choice; my mother was a childminder, so growing up I was always surrounded by children – there was always someone to look after. Then came my sisters, who – at least I’d like to think – I’ve had a fair part in helping shape. Their father died when they were very young, back when I was 11, and I have spent a lot of time looking after them. Next came my nephews, the two oldest ones – the first when I was 12, the second about when I was 15, both of whom I would regularly be taking care of.
They are all grown up now, my sisters have finished their studies, and are now working in their chosen fields. I’m still as close to them as ever and see them as often as I can, even though this is not nearly as often as I would like. I sometimes forget that they are adults now, one of them already a mother herself; it’s kind of hard to not think of them as ‘little’ when you so vividly remember them at one or four or toothless six.. Every once in a while I slip [especially in therapy, I've noticed], and I will call them The Kids, rather than My Sisters. I guess it tells you something of how I feel about them..
But, in reality, I have no children of my own. Every single day my biological clock ticks louder and louder, sometimes it feels completely deafening, and even if I try – even for a minute – to get away from it, I can’t. It’s always there, ticking away in the background.
I was recently diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS], something which I had suspected for some time. This is not great news when it comes to the possibility of having children. It is also not the end of the world. PCOS is fairly common, and many women with PCOS will be able to conceive and carry to term healthy and hopefully happy babies. But it is also one of the most common explanations for infertility, since it often means either irregular ovulation or even completely missed ovulation. One of two critical parts in the conception of a child [the other, of course, being a healthy sperm reaching the egg]. No ovulation means no children. That’s the basic science.
Ever since I was officially diagnosed I have been more than ever aware of how badly I want to have children of my own, and by cruel chance there just happen to be women around me falling pregnant left, right and diagonally. [Cruel for me, happy for them, I should say.] Aside from A. being pregnant, there are a number of other women in my life who are also expecting. And that is one of the hardest things to deal with, because you have to deal with mixed emotions to an extreme degree. On the one hand I am genuinely happy for them, I really am – I don’t wish to take anything away from their happiness, but is also always tainted by jealousy, by wishing it could be me, and by the increasing realisation that it may never be me.
I have always said that if I am told, categorically, that I cannot have children, that will be the end of me. That is how I have always felt about it, or at least for as long as I can remember. There are other things in my life which are at times excruciatingly painful to live with; the flashbacks, the nightmares, the memories of what happened to me as a child, which have more than once pushed me to try to end my life. I work really hard to not get back to that place, and the thought of one day having children has always been one, if not the, strongest motivator to hold on to the hope that things can change, things can be different.
If that hope were to be taken away, I know I could not go on. Sadly, that’s not just in a manner of speaking, it’s a fact.
I’m not naïve, or at least I’d like to think that I’m not. I realise that having children does not change what has happened before, and I would never ever choose to have children based on the hope of that happening; it would be a terrible and impossible burden to place on the child’s shoulders. But I do believe, and you can ask almost anyone who has ever had a child to confirm this, having a child changes you, changes the way you view things, shifts the focus from yourself at the centre of your life to them. Not perhaps every single second of every singe minute, but as a life perspective.
It has always been my view, and I stand by it still, that people should only have children if they want to be parents. Not because The Time Was Right, or because All Of My Friends Are Having Children or because That’s What You Do, Isn’t It? or because Oops!. You have children because you want to be a parent to them. To responsibly raise the next generation, to experience love in a different way and to pass that love on to your children. And then your children’s children. And if you’re really lucky, your children’s children’s children. You get the idea.
As you can imagine this is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about throughout my life, and the thought that there is an ever growing likelihood with each passing month that I will never get to experience or share that love, it’s really getting to me, in a big way.
So, things are rough right now. Very very rough. To the point where I wonder if I can get through this, or if I even want to. If, maybe, I’m getting to the end of the line here? I just don’t know. I’m trying to hold on, but it feels like my grip is slipping, and I’m not sure I’ve got what it takes to not let go.
Not the happiest of notes to end a post on, but – hey – this is an honesty-focused blog, and there is a warning that things on this blog may not always be nice..